Politics

Rome Vs. Gotham

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Urban politicians have widely embraced the current concentration of power in Washington, but they may soon regret the trend they now so actively champion. The great protean tradition of American urbanism – with scores of competing economic centers – is giving way to a new Romanism, in which all power and decisions devolve down to the imperial core.

This is big stuff, perhaps even more important than the health care debate. The consequence could be a loss of local control, weakening the ability of cities to respond to new challenges in the coming decades.  read more »

Playing with the Big Boys: The Costs of Fruitless Passenger Rail Tours

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In these hard times the New Zealand public is somewhat excited about the travel costs incurred by our Government Ministers and MPs. Overseas travel attracts particular rage and fury.

A particularly galling example is a proposal by Christchurch City Mayor Bob Parker, his CEO Tony Marryat, and an urban planner, to visit the US to investigate the performance of light rail in Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Vancouver.  read more »

Vetting the Volt: Toward Meaningful Electric Car Fuel Consumption Ratings

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The 230 Miles per Gallon Claim: The General Motors (GM) announcement last week that the Chevrolet Volt would achieve 230 miles per gallon in city driving and a rating of more than 100 miles per gallon with combined city and highway driving sadly contains more hype than reality. The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in hybrid vehicle that GM intends to begin marketing in 2010. GM has indicated that the car will be able without gasoline for 40 miles, on its rechargeable battery. After the battery is depleted, the car would begin to use gasoline. The 230 mile per gallon figure, according to GM, was calculated using a proposed but yet not revealed Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy testing procedure. Similarly, the details of the GM calculation were not revealed.  read more »

Hypocrisy? Conservative Anti-government Folks are Also at the Public Trough

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Frequent news stories tell of folks who protest and rant about “socialism” and government handouts, especially recently in the “debate” over health care reform, but who turn out to live on social security and depend on Medicare, and sometimes don’t even know they are public programs! This likely tells us about the astounding power of the religious right and of the economic illiteracy of much of the population.  read more »

The New Radicals

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America's ''kumbaya'' moment has come and gone. The nation's brief feel-good era initiated by Barack Obama's stirring post-partisan rhetoric--and fortified by John McCain's classy concession speech--has dissolved into sectarian bickering more appropriate to dysfunctional Iraq than the world's greatest democratic republic.

Yet little of the shouting concerns the fundamental economic issue facing the U.S. today: the decline of upward mobility and income growth for the working and middle classes. Instead we have politicos battling over two versions of ''trickle down'' economics.  read more »

California Disease: Oregon at Risk of Economic Malady

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California has been exporting people to Oregon for many years, even amid the recession in both states.

Indeed, the 2005 American Community Survey report shows that California-to-Oregon migration was 56,379 in 2005, the sixth-largest interstate flow in the United States. The 2000 census showed a five-year flow of 138,836 people, the eighth-largest over that time period. Until two years ago, Oregon was managing to absorb this population with mixed results, but generally as part of an expanding and diversifying economy. But that pattern has ended, at least for now.  read more »

Nice Houses for Ducks

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During the long hot summer of the expenses scandal in British politics, one of the most bizarre stories concerned a Conservative MP who claimed from the public purse for a second home: a place for his ducks. It wasn’t any old duck house, however, but a ‘Stockholm’ floating model, valued at over £1,500. It is over 5 feet high.  read more »

Glimpsing the Good in Police Chief Bratton’s Goodbye to L.A.

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Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief William Bratton’s pending departure makes now a good time to give him credit for a habit that draws scant attention amid talk of his traveling ways and unapologetic ego: The guy works very hard at every aspect of his duties.  read more »

Can Obama be deprogrammed?

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In my first foray into political life in the 1970s, I worked during college on the staff of a liberal Democrat in the Texas state Senate. Only a few years earlier, Patty Hearst had been kidnapped and brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and a moral panic about cults seducing college kids was sweeping the nation. One result was the rise of a new, thankfully ephemeral profession: "deprogrammers" who for pay would kidnap a young person from a cult and break the spell, by means of isolation, interrogation and maybe reruns of "The Waltons."  read more »

Origins and Growth of Al Capone’s Outfit: Chicago’s First Ward Democratic Organization and its Aftermath

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Barack Obama ran for President with his headquarters in downtown Chicago. Obama's election night victory speech was just blocks away in Chicago's Grant Park. To historians of organized crime both locations are located in a significant place: Chicago's old First Ward. This valuable plot of land is where Chicago's Democratic Machine and Al Capone's criminal organization both began. The connection between the two is of great historical significance. Why? Because the Chicago Mob is nothing but an outgrowth of Chicago's old First Ward Democratic Organization.  read more »